Friday 13 June
Actor Gregory Peck dies
in Los Angeles at age 87
Gregory Peck, one of the last of the great stars from
Hollywood's golden era and a man who embodied on-screen
heroism, died peacefully during the night at his Los
Angeles home at the age of 87, his spokesman said on
Spokesman Monroe Friedman
said Peck's French-born wife of 48 years, Veronique
Passani Peck, was at his side when he died.
"She told me he just
died peacefully. She said she was holding his hand and he
just closed his eyes and went to sleep and he was
gone," Friedman told Reuters.
His death came less than a
week after the American Film Institute paid tribute to him
by naming his role as the idealistic Southern lawyer
Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird" as the
greatest movie hero of all time. The role earned Peck his
only Oscar for best actor in 1963.
A tall, lean and
square-jawed sex symbol in his early years, Peck went on
to become Hollywood's ideal example of moral strength and
sincerity both in the movies and as a community activist.
The California-born actor,
who once thought of becoming a priest, attended a military
academy as a boy and his soldier-like bearing served him
well in such roles as Captain Ahab of "Moby
Dick," King David ("David and Bathsheba"),
Gen. Douglas MacArthur ("MacArthur") and Abraham
Lincoln (television's "The Blue and the Gray").
Rarely in his 52 films did
he play anything but a "good guy," a notable
exception being the Nazi villain in the popular "The
Boys From Brazil" (1978).
Critics could be unkind.
Pauline Kael of the New Yorker once labeled Peck
"competent but always a little boring."
But John Huston, who
directed Peck in "Moby Dick," echoed the
comments of many in Hollywood when he praised the
"superb dignity" of the actor's performances.
"Greg is one of the nicest, straightest guys I ever
knew, and there's a size to him," Huston wrote in his
Peck, who also produced a
number of movies, made big contributions as a civic leader
in the film industry, serving as the founding chairman of
the American Film Institute. In March 1987 he was among
cultural and scientific luminaries invited to Moscow for
then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's forum "For a
Nuclear-Free World and the Survival of Mankind."
A charter member of the
National Arts Council, Peck was also a driving force
behind the AFI and served from 1967 to 1970 as president
of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which
later awarded him its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
In 1968, President Lyndon
Johnson awarded Peck the Medal of Freedom, America's
highest civilian award.
Asked once by an
interviewer to sum up his career, Peck replied with
typical reserve: "I enjoy practicing my craft as well
as I possibly can. I enjoy the work for its own
He was born in La Jolla,
California, on April 5, 1916, and was given the name of
Eldred Gregory Peck. His first name came from a telephone
directory and was quickly dropped.
Peck entered St. John's
Military Academy in Los Angeles at the age of 10. There he
received discipline and large doses of Catholic training,
and briefly considered becoming a priest.
Migrating to New York, he
was a barker at the 1939 World's Fair and soon won a job
on the stage. His first Broadway appearance, in 1942's
"Morning Star," earned him a test with movie
producer David O. Selznick -- who turned him down.
In 1944, however, he
starred as a Russian guerrilla fighter in "Days of
Glory," which led to a role the next year as a
thoughtful priest in "The Keys of the Kingdom."
A bad back kept Peck out of
World War Two. With many Hollywood stars in uniform, Peck
had his choice of studios but refused to sign long-term
contracts or tie himself to a single studio.
Among his early films were
"Spellbound" (1945), "The Yearling"
(1946), "The Macomber Affair" (1947), "Duel
in the Sun" (1947), "Yellow Sky" (1948),
"Twelve O'Clock High" (1950), "The
Gunfighter" (1950), "Captain Horatio Hornblower"
(1951), "The World in His Arms" (1952), and
"David and Bathsheba" (1951).
In 1956 Peck starred in two
of his most successful movies, "The Man in the Gray
Flannel Suit" and "Moby Dick."
In 1958, Peck co-produced
and starred in "The Big Country," a success that
was followed by the bigger ones of "The Guns of
Navarone" (a 1962 war thriller) and "To Kill a
Mockingbird," which won him his sole Oscar.
Peck also won success with
the 1976 hit horror film "The Omen," as well as
with "MacArthur" (1977),"The Boys From
Brazil" and "Old Gringo" (1989). His last
two cinematic appearances were in "Old Gringo"
and a cameo in "Cape Fear" in 1991.
In 1954, Peck divorced his
first wife, Greta Rice, with whom he had three children
(the suicide of his eldest son, Jonathan, in 1975 caused
him great grief). In 1955 he married French journalist
Veronique Passani, with whom he had two@children.
In addition to his wife he
is survived by two sons from his first marriage and a son
and daughter by Veronique, as well as several
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